Notary (canon law)

Last updated
Scale of justice, canon law.svg
Part of a series on the
Jurisprudence of
Catholic canon law
046CupolaSPietro.jpg Catholicismportal

A notary in the canon law of the Catholic Church (Latin: notarius) is a person appointed by competent authority to draw up official or authentic documents. These documents are issued chiefly from the official administrative bureaux, the chanceries; secondly, from tribunals; lastly, others are drawn up at the request of individuals to authenticate their contracts or other acts. The public officials appointed to draw up these three classes of papers have been usually called notaries.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

Ecclesiastical Latin, also called Church Latin, Liturgical Latin or Italian Latin, is a later form of Latin used to discuss Christian thought. It developed from the vulgar Latin of ancient Rome and includes words from Classical Latin re-purposed with Christian meaning. It is less stylized and rigid in form than Classical Latin and commonly its pronunciation is based on Italian.

Contents

Etymology

Etymologically, a notary is one who takes notes. Notes are signs or cursory abbreviations to record the words uttered, so that they may be reproduced later in ordinary writing. Notaries were at first private secretaries, attached to the service of persons in positions of importance. It was natural for the science of notes to be in high esteem among those employed in recording the transactions of public boards, and for the name notary to be applied to these officials; so that before long the word was used to signify their occupation.

History

The title and office existed at the Imperial Court (cf. Cod. Theod., VI, 16, "De primicerio et notariis"), whence they passed into all the royal chanceries, though in the course of time the term notary ceased to be used. This was the case also with the chanceries of the pope, the great episcopal sees, and even every bishopric.

There are grounds for doubting whether the seven regional notaries of the Roman Church, one for each ecclesiastical district of the Holy City, were instituted by St. Clement and appointed by him to record the Acts of the martyrs, as is said in the "Liber Pontificalis"; [1] they date back, however, to an early age.

Primicerius and secundicerius

Not only were there notaries as soon as a bureau for ecclesiastical documents was established, but in very ancient days we find these notaries forming a kind of college presided over by a primicerius; the notice of Pope Julius I in the "Liber Pontificalis" relates that this pope ordered an account of the property of the Church, intended as an authentic document, to be drawn up before the primicerius of the notaries.

Pope Julius I pope

Pope Julius I was Pope of the Catholic Church from 6 February 337 to his death in 352. He was notable for asserting the authority of the pope over the Arian Eastern bishops.

The notaries were in the ranks of the clergy and must have received one of the minor orders; for the notariate is an office and not an order. At intervals the popes entrusted the notaries of their curia with various missions. Their chief, the primicerius, with whom a secundicerius is sometimes found later, was a very important personage, in fact, the head of the pontifical chancery; during the vacancy of the papal chair, he formed part of the interim Government, and a letter in 640 (Jaffé, "Regesta", n. 2040) is signed (the pope being elected but not yet consecrated) by one "Joannes primicerius et servans locum s. sedis apostolicae".

The Apostolic Chancery was a dicastery of the Roman Curia at the service of the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. The principal and presiding official was the Cardinal Chancellor of Holy Roman Church who was always Cardinal-Priest of the Basilica di San Lorenzo in Damaso. The original, principal function of the office was to collect money to maintain the Papal Army. Pope Pius VII reformed the office when Emperor Napoleon I of France obviated the need for Papal armies. In the early 20th century the office collected money for missionary work. Pope Paul VI abrogated the Cancellaria Apostolica on 27 February 1973. Its obligations were transferred to the Secretariat of State.

Protonotary Apostolic

There were of course many notaries in the service of the pontifical chancery; the seven regional notaries preserved a certain pre-eminence over the others and became the protonotary (also spelled "prothonotaries"), whose name and office continued. The ordinary notaries of the chancery, however, were gradually known by other names, according to their various functions, so that the term ceased to be employed in the pontifical and other chanceries. The prothonotaries were and still are a college of prelates, enjoying numerous privileges; they are known as "participants", but outside of Rome there are many purely honorary prothonotaries. The official duties had insensibly almost ceased; but Pius X in his reorganization of the Roman Curia has appointed participant prothonotaries to the chancery (Const. "Sapienti", 29 June 1908). A corresponding change occurred in the bureaux of the episcopal churches, abbeys, etc.; the officials attached to the chancery have ceased to be known as notaries and are called chancellor, secretary, etc. Lastly, mention must be made of the notaries of the synodal or conciliar assemblies, whose duties are limited to the duration of the assembly.

Notaries of canonical tribunals

Society in former times did not recognize the separation of powers; so, too, in the Church the judicial authority was vested in the same prelates as the administrative. Soon, however, contentious matters were tried separately before a specially appointed body.

The courts required a staff to record the transactions; these clerks were likewise notaries. In most civil courts they are, however, called registrars, clerks of the court, etc., but in the ecclesiastical tribunals they retain the name notary, though they are also called "actuaries".

Thus the special law of the higher ecclesiastical tribunals, [note 1] the Tribunal of the Roman Rota and the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, reorganized by St. Pius X, provides for the appointment of notaries for these two tribunals. The reason why the head official charged with drawing up the documents of the Holy Office is called the notary, as were the clerks who in former times drew up the records of the Inquisition, is, doubtless, that of all the Roman Congregations the Holy Office is the only real judicial tribunal.

Pope Pius X Catholic Pope and saint

Pope Pius X, born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was head of the Roman Catholic Church from August 1903 to his death in 1914. Pius X is known for vigorously opposing modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting liturgical reforms and orthodox theology. He directed the production of the 1917 Code of Canon Law, the first comprehensive and systemic work of its kind.

Inquisition group of institutions within the judicial system of the Roman Catholic Church whose aim was to combat heresy

The Inquisition started in 12th-century France to combat religious dissent, in particular the Cathars and the Waldensians. It was a type of government institution within the Catholic Church whose main goal was to eliminate heresy. Other groups investigated later included the Spiritual Franciscans, the Hussites and the Beguines. Beginning in the 1250s, inquisitors were generally chosen from members of the Dominican Order, replacing the earlier practice of using local clergy as judges. The term Medieval Inquisition covers these courts up to mid-15th century.

The notaries of ecclesiastical tribunals are usually clerics; the duties may however be confided to laymen, except in criminal cases against a cleric.

Public notaries

Finally, there is the class of persons to whom the term notary is restricted in common parlance, to wit, those who are appointed by the proper authorities to witness the documentary proceedings between private persons and to impress them with legal authenticity. They are not engaged in the chanceries, in order that they may be within easy reach of private individuals; they have a public character, so that their records, drawn up according to rule, are received as authentic accounts of the particular transaction, especially agreements, contracts, testaments, and wills.

Consequently, public notaries may be appointed only by those authorities who possess jurisdiction in foro externo, and have a chancery, e.g. popes, bishops, emperors, reigning princes, and of course only within the limits of their jurisdiction; moreover, the territory within which a notary can lawfully exercise his functions is expressly determined. There were formerly Apostolic notaries and even episcopal notaries, duly commissioned by papal or episcopal letters, whose duty it was to receive documents relating to ecclesiastical or mixed affairs, especially in connection with benefices, foundations, and donations in favor of churches, wills of clerics, etc. They no longer exist; the only ecclesiastical notaries at present are the officials of the Roman and episcopal curiae. Moreover, these notaries were layman, and canon law forbids clerics to acts as scriveners. [note 2]

Related Research Articles

An Abbreviator or Breviator was a writer of the Papal Chancery who adumbrated and prepared in correct form Papal bulls, briefs, and consistorial decrees before these were written out in extenso by the scriptores.

<i>Liber Pontificalis</i> Book of biographies of popes

The Liber Pontificalis is a book of biographies of popes from Saint Peter until the 15th century. The original publication of the Liber Pontificalis stopped with Pope Adrian II (867–872) or Pope Stephen V (885–891), but it was later supplemented in a different style until Pope Eugene IV (1431–1447) and then Pope Pius II (1458–1464). Although quoted virtually uncritically from the 8th to 18th centuries, the Liber Pontificalis has undergone intense modern scholarly scrutiny. The work of the French priest Louis Duchesne, and of others has highlighted some of the underlying redactional motivations of different sections, though such interests are so disparate and varied as to render improbable one popularizer's claim that it is an "unofficial instrument of pontifical propaganda."

Civil law notary lawyer of noncontentious private civil law

Civil-law notaries, or Latin notaries, are agents of noncontentious private civil law who draft, take, and record instruments for private parties and are vested as public officers with the authentication power of the State. As opposed to most notaries public, their common-law counterparts, civil-law notaries are highly trained, licensed practitioners providing a range of regulated services, and whereas they hold a public office, they nonetheless operate usually—but not always—in private practice and are paid on a fee-for-service basis. They often receive the same education as attorneys at civil law but without qualifications in advocacy, procedural law, or the law of evidence, somewhat comparable to solicitor training in certain common-law countries.

An ecclesiastical court, also called court Christian or court spiritual, is any of certain courts having jurisdiction mainly in spiritual or religious matters. In the Middle Ages these courts had much wider powers in many areas of Europe than before the development of nation states. They were experts in interpreting canon law, a basis of which was the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian which is considered the source of the civil law legal tradition.

Monsignor honorific form of address for certain Catholic clergy

Monsignor is an honorific form of address for some members of the clergy, usually of the Roman Catholic Church, including bishops, honorary prelates and canons. In some cases, these ecclesiastical honorific titles derive from the pope, but in other cases it is simply a customary or honorary style belonging to a prelate or honorary prelate. These are granted to individuals who have rendered valuable service to the church, or who provide some special function in church governance, or who are members of bodies such as certain chapters. Although in some languages the word is used as a form of address for bishops, which is indeed its primary use in those languages, this is not customary in English. Monsignor is the apocopic form of the Italian monsignore, from the French mon seigneur, meaning "my lord". It is abbreviated Mgr or Mons, Msgr, or Mons.

The word prothonotary is recorded in English since 1447, as "principal clerk of a court," from L.L. prothonotarius, from Greek protonotarios "first scribe," originally the chief of the college of recorders of the court of the Byzantine Empire, from Greek πρῶτοςprotos "first" + Latin notarius ("notary"); the -h- appeared in Medieval Latin. The title was awarded to certain high-ranking notaries.

There are currently nine congregations of the Roman Curia, the central administration of the Catholic Church. They are second highest-ranking departments, below the two Secretariats, and above the pontifical councils, pontifical commissions, tribunals and offices.

The Latin term primicerius, hellenized as primikērios, was a title applied in the later Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire to the heads of administrative departments, and also used by the Church to denote the heads of various colleges.

The papal household or pontifical household, called until 1968 the Papal Court, consists of dignitaries who assist the pope in carrying out particular ceremonies of either a religious or a civil character.

Protonotary apostolic position

In the Roman Catholic Church, protonotary apostolic is the title for a member of the highest non-episcopal college of prelates in the Roman Curia or, outside Rome, an honorary prelate on whom the Pope has conferred this title and its special privileges. An example is Prince Georg of Bavaria (1880–1943), who became in 1926 Protonotary by papal decree.

A curia is an official body that governs a particular Church in Roman Catholicism. These curias range from the relatively simple diocesan curia, to the larger patriarchal curias, to the Roman Curia, which is the central government of the Catholic Church. Other Roman Catholic bodies, such as religious institutes, may also have curias. For example, the Legion of Mary has a rank called the Curia. It stands above the Praesidium but below the Regia. The Curia is responsible for several Praesidia.

The Apostolic Camera, formerly known as the Papal Treasury, is an office in the Roman Curia. It was the central board of finance in the Papal administrative system and at one time was of great importance in the government of the States of the Church, and in the administration of justice, led by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church.

Formularies are medieval collections of models for the execution of documents (acta), public or private; a space being left for the insertion of names, dates, and circumstances peculiar to each case. Their modern equivalent are forms.

Notarius

A notarius is a public secretary who is appointed by competent authority to draw up official or authentic documents. In the Roman Catholic Church there have been apostolic notaries and even episcopal notaries. Documents drawn up by notarii are issued chiefly from the official administrative offices, the chanceries; secondly, from tribunals; lastly, others are drawn up at the request of individuals to authenticate their contracts or other acts.

The prōtasēkrētis, also found as prōtoasēkrētis (πρωτοασηκρῆτις) and Latinized as protasecretis or protoasecretis, was a senior official in the Byzantine bureaucracy. The title means "first asēkrētis", illustrating his position as the head of the order of the asēkrētis, the senior class of imperial notaries.

Glossary of the Catholic Church

This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church.

Law of Vatican City

The law of Vatican City State consists of many forms, the most important of which is the Fundamental Law of Vatican City State. The Code of Penal Procedure governs tribunals and the Lateran Treaty governs relations with the Republic of Italy.

<i>Pontificalis Domus</i> apostolic letter issued by Pope Paul VI

The apostolic letter motu proprioPontificalis Domus was issued by Pope Paul VI on 28 March 1968, in the fifth year of his pontificate. It reorganized the Papal Household, which had been known until then as the Papal Court.

Benedict M. Vierra was a priest of the Roman Catholic Church. Father Vierra underwent clerical formation in the Philippines where he was ordained to the presbyterate for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu. On his return to Honolulu, he engaged in pastoral work and was instrumental in the building of the current co-cathedral of the diocese of Honolulu, consecrated under the title of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus, the French Carmelite mystic and doctor of the church. His close ties to the Philippines enabled him to persuade the Bishop of Honolulu to allow several Philippine religious orders and diocesan clergy to minister to the growing number of Filipino immigrants to Hawaii. Pope John XXIII appointed Father Vierra as a prothonotary apostolic, with the title of monsignor, the first in the diocese of Honolulu, the highest non-episcopal prelate entitled to wear the mitre and to pontificate at liturgy, with due regard for the precedence of the diocesan bishop in accordance with Roman Pontifical. He remains the only Hawai'i cleric on whom this honor has been conferred. He also served as vicar general of the Diocese of Honolulu.

Michael Xavier Leo Arokiaraj

Michael Xavier Leo Arokiaraj is an Indian clerical lawyer.

References

  1. "Vita Clementis", ed. Duchesne, I, 123

Notes

  1. can. v and xxxv
  2. c. viii, "Ne clerici vel monachi", 1. III, tit. 50

Bibliography

Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : A. BOUDINHON (1913). "Notaries". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton.DU CANGE, Glossarium, s.v. Notarius; FERRARIS, Prompta bibliotheca, s.v. Notarius; FAGNANI, Commentaria in c. Sicut te, 8, Ne Clerici vel monachi; and in c. In ordinando, I, De simonia; HERICOURT, Les lois ecclesiastiques de France (Paris, 1721), E, xiii; GIRY, Manuel de diplomatique (Paris, 1894).